Easily the most thought-provoking XBLA tile to date.
There are no cutscenes in Braid. When beginning the game for the first time, you control Tim as you make your way from a burning city to your house. In this house, there is a series of rooms. Most of these rooms have a door that leads to a cloudy environment filled with books and other doors. The story of Braid is told through these books, and each door leads to a part of the level. Overall, navigating the game is very streamlined. The game begins instantly, the player gets no indication of whether the game is saved when it is and the narrative texts fill a part of the screen as you stand on the book instead of popping up from the press of a button.
The levels are of the typical 2D platformer kind, but with extremely clever puzzle elements included. Each level has a series of puzzle pieces that needs collected, and most of these require clever thinking and knowledge of how the game's time mechanics work. At all times, the player can press X to rewind time, either to save yourself when you die or to solve puzzles. At first, it's pretty basic. Move around, jump on top of enemies to reach higher places and use keys to open doors. When you move on to the more advanced levels, you realize that there is a lot more to it than that. Suddenly rewinding time will trigger a shadow of the world that will retrace what happened before rewinding, making way for puzzles that require that shadow to act in a specific way as the real world moves differently. There are objects that transcend time, which lets the player rewind time without those objects being affected. One level's world moves back in time as Tim moves to the left of the screen and forward as he moves to the right. Another requires the use of a ring that creates a bubble where time moves slower. Braid is the kind of puzzle game that will make you wonder how on Earth you are supposed to get that puzzle-piece, but when you finally do you realize that it all makes perfect sense.
There is also a Speedrun mode and 8 super-hidden stars to collect that add to the replay value, but the game is perhaps a bit too short compared to its price. You'll still get maybe six hours out of it.
Gameplay is simple and to the point. You move and press a few of the face buttons. The entire control scheme is learned almost instantly. Most importantly, the controls are very tight. Tim follows the thumbstick precisely and makes for a game that is easy to control.
Visually, Braid is basically moving paintings. It might sound simple, but it looks very pretty. Tim himself has a charismatic look, and it's hard not to fall in love with him. There is no HUD, but there is no need for it as lives are infinite with the rewind mechanic. The sound is also very good, usually classical music like violins and even lullabies. Interacting with time will alter the score, which is a nice touch.
At first glance, the story of Braid is the common "save the princess" kind of story you have undoubtedly seen before. As you play the game, assemble the puzzle pieces and read the books, you understand that it is far more complicated. David Lynch gets a Special Thanks in the Credits, which makes a lot of sense. The story is very ambiguous. All sorts of questions pop up in your head. Why is the game laid out the way it is? Why did that book say that? Why is it called Braid? What is the real story here? The cryptic and metaphoric texts that tell the story, as well as the layout and incredible ending, all contribute to a mystical and thought-provoking story that is far more than expected for a game, yet alone an Xbox Live Arcade title.
The game is probably too short to justify 1200 Microsoft Points, but the experience itself far surpasses that. The game's ending will certainly go down in history as one of the biggest twists yet, and the game's mechanics makes for a great puzzler. Braid is a unique piece of work that every gamer has to experience.